Today’s IR Students; Tomorrow’s IR Practitioners

US Soldiers on Patrol in Iraq

US Soldiers on Patrol in Iraq

Daniel Drezner has an interesting analysis of the foreign policy views of Millennials

. Citing Peter Beinart’s The Icarus Syndrome, Drezner observes that policy makers viewpoints are often shaped by the formative experiences (primarily wars), particularly during their formative years. Based on this observation, Drezner concludes that the worldview of today’s Millennials were shaped primarily by: (1) an early childhood of peace and property (the nineties); (2) the September 11 attacks; (3) the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; (4) the global economic crisis and recession; and (5) the rise of China and the decline of U.S. hegemony.

These formative events, Drezner concludes, will likely lead Millennials to be “anti-interventionist to the point of isolationism.” Joshua Keating echoes Drezner’s analysis, noting that the Millennials would seem to be strong supporters of Ron Paul’s brand of (less militaristic) Republican foreign policy.

This is certainly a thought-provoking discussion, but I wonder to what degree we can draw conclusions regarding the impact of such dramatic events on large groups. The September 11 attacks, for example, briefly mobilized the general public to support the war in Afghanistan, but this support soon faded. Opinion was soon sharply divided, even among those most affected by the attacks themselves. Some victims’ families wanted revenge for the attacks, strongly supporting a more aggressive foreign policy position. Others, however, turned their grief into calls for understanding and peace, opposing the war. Events, in other words, may help to solidify ideologies, but individual ideology may develop in sharply divergent ways in response to the same event.

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